To Haunt You (2011) – By Cary Conley

We have all heard the story of the horror film made for $15,000 that grossed nearly $200,000,000 worldwide. Its name was Paranormal Activity (2007), and it has spawned two popular and lucrative sequels along with lesser knock-offs like the truly awful Paranormal Entity (2009) on the strength of its thrills and chills. People seem to either really love the films and think they are truly scary or they seem to hate the films and find them totally silly. For the record, I thought the film was absolutely terrifying and have not seen the sequels –or watched the original a second time–simply because it scared the Bejeezus out of me. So it’s no surprise that other directors would want to try to "strike gold" with a simple but scary story that needs few special effects and very little money–and why shouldn’t other indie directors try their hand at this type of film? Hollywood sure will.

To Haunt You is just such a film. A simple ghost story that doesn’t try to pull out the stops with splashy special effects, but aims at terrifying you with more subtle effects–shadows flitting by, strange noises, and mysterious figures seen from afar. Jill is a college student who has broken up with her boyfriend, and he isn’t taking it well. She has been receiving mysterious anonymous calls, which she attributes to her forlorn lover, but also begins to experience other strange events as well. She begins to become accident-prone, cutting herself badly two days in a row; she hears strange noises, sees strange figures, and once is even locked in her bathroom while someone–or something–shreds her clothing. She finally calls the police, telling them about her ex-boyfriend. But the police are skeptical it is the Jill’s ex, and they have good reason. So if it isn’t her ex, who or what is behind this strange series of events? Or has her ex just found a way to dupe the police? Perhaps Jill isn’t as stable as we first thought…after all, she is seeing a therapist…. Things take a very strange turn as the mysterious figure finally reveals itself to Jill.

Director James Mannan proves to be technically proficient at filmmaking. The look and sound of the film are superb. There are many interesting angles, the sound recording is excellent, and the special effects are good, if limited in number. But Mannan wasn’t out to create an effects-driven film; he was out to make a frightening ghost story. All the elements of a creepy and atmospheric horror yarn are here, but unfortunately I didn’t get the chilling sensation I was hoping for.

Part of the problem lies with the inexperience of the actors. I simply felt their reactions to events were unrealistic. Emily McMillen who stars as Jill, the young woman who is being haunted, acts more irritated at events than frightened. She frowns and rolls her eyes frequently, but comes across more annoyed than mystified or scared. When she is finally confronted by the mysterious figure who is revealed to be a vampire, her reaction is anything but scared at this revelation.

Another problem lies with the explanation for the strange occurrences. It has to do with incest, murder, and suicide. There is also a unique new explanation for how one becomes a vampire. The explanation is probably much more complicated than it needs to be. If you want a good, old-fashioned ghost story, then sticking with a good, old-fashioned explanation–be it unearthly or not–is probably best. While the film ultimately falls a little flat, there are other strengths as well. The musical score was excellent and really contributed to the scenes of tension in the film. There is also a nice sequence throughout the film that shows a wound on Jill’s hand that refuses to heal. The special effects, while simple, are effective, and the idea of a wound created by a ghost that won’t heal is creative.

While a bit uneven, the film has many good qualities, and fans of ghost stories may want to check this one out. For more information, go to www.libertyordeathprod.com/tohauntyou.htm.